Profs’ CTECs lowest for teaching quality

In the eyes of Northwestern students, the faculty members with the highest salaries and the most prestige are the least effective teachers, a Daily investigation has found.

And the most effective teachers, according to students, are among those with the lowest salaries and little job security.

A study of the past two years of CTEC evaluations concluded that, on a six-point scale, students gave lecturers an average overall instruction rating of 5.05; they gave tenured professors an average of 4.70.

Lecturers, who are paid an average of $39,900 per year, are up for contract renewal as often as every year. Tenured professors, who make $111,200 on average, have jobs for life.

“Chances are, tenure-line faculty are here because they’re great scholars,” said Laura LaBauve, a Hispanic studies lecturer. “Being a great scholar doesn’t mean you can teach.”

Indeed, administrators confirm that research is the single most important category in receiving tenure.

“One cannot get tenure at Northwestern simply on the basis of teaching,” Weinberg Dean Eric Sundquist said. “There is an expectation that one is an excellent scholar and excels in research.”

While the difference in the CTEC evaluation ratings is less than a half point on the six-point scale, it is large enough to foster debate among faculty, administrators and students, whose explanations for the findings range from the difficulty of the course or subject to grade inflation to the nature of the student surveys themselves.

But most were not surprised by the results. Everyone seems to agree that lecturers — whose temporary contracts hinge almost exclusively on their teaching ability — have greater incentive to satisfy students than tenured and tenure-track faculty, who reap more rewards from their research.

The study

In a monthlong investigation, The Daily examined the overall instruction rating according to student surveys of 5,053 undergraduate classes offered from Winter Quarter 1998 through Fall Quarter 1999 — though the School of Music did not have CTEC evaluations until Winter Quarter 1999. The study includes CTEC evaluations that instructors chose not to post on the university’s Web site.

According to political science Prof. Kenneth Janda, who teaches statistics for political research and helped interpret the results: